ISLAMABAD - The opposition’s move in the Senate on Tuesday to block immediate passage of two draft bills pertaining to human rights irked the government leading to the exchange of words on Twitter between both.

The opposition parties’ insistence to the Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani to refer the two draft bills, the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2020, and the ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Bill 2020, to the house committee instead of their smooth sailing from the house in a day aroused the Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari to take to the Twitter to show her “disappointment.”

Both the bills, already passed by the National Assembly, were on the orders of day as the government’s legislative business to put to vote. However, the parliamentary leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the Senate Mushahidullah Khan objected and said that the government could not bypass the normal procedures under the rules and the bills should have to be referred to the standing committee concerned for another parliamentary scrutiny. He also made it clear that the opposition had no issue over the draft bills.

Dr Mazari in her remarks said that the Zainab Alert Bill, aimed at prevention of children from sexual abuse, had already been thoroughly debated by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights headed by Chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari for eight months and should be passed without any delay.

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Khan Swati endorsed his cabinet colleague and said that all political parties in the NA committee had already reached an agreement on the proposed law concerning sexual abuse.

Leader of the Opposition in the House Raja Zafarul Haq responding the ministers said that the importance of the bills could not be ignored and added, “If a house passes a law, then other house (of parliament) cannot pass it by shutting its eyes.”

Later, the chair referred both the bills to the standing committee concerned. Sanjrani also referred all other five bills, already passed by NA, that were on the agenda for a voting to the standing committees concerned despite persistence of Law Minister Farogh Naseem that these should be passed without delay.

When Senator Naseem moved first of his five bills – Letter of Administration and Succession Certificates Bill, Senator Mushahid Ullah took the same stance. Then law minister remarked that PML-N and PPP had a written agreement with the government over these draft laws. When PML-N senior senator refused to budge from his position, the law minister advised him “to keep in mind in future what he has said.”

These five bills moved by the law minister included the Letters of Administration and Succession Certificates Bill 2020, the Legal Aid and Justice Authority Bill 2020, the Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Bill 2020, the Superior Courts (Court Dress and Mode of Address) Order (Repeal) Bill 2020 and the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2019.

Later, Dr Mazari in a twitter statement said, “Today unfortunately the Opposition in the Senate chose to refer our Zainab Alert Bill and Disability Bill to the Senate HR Standing Committee before it gets passage from the Senate. Disappointing to say the least.”

The parliamentary leader of PPP in the Senate Ms Sherry Rehman responding the minister through her Twitter said, “Sorry, I don’t understand why it’s called disappointing for a bill to go to its regular standing committee? When a bill passes in one House it goes thru the Standing Committee of the other House. This is the parliamentary procedure for both Houses! Why should it be bulldozed?”

“We want all human rights and public interest legislation to go through as fast as possible but it is absurd to day Senate should suddenly not put bills through its committees. My Child Marriage is waiting for NA Committee for months. Am not seeking a bulldoze thru Parliament!” she said in her second consecutive Tweet.

Separately, the house unanimously passed the Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority Bill to provide for housing and real estate development and other activities related to land and construction through the establishment of Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority.  The bill is aimed at construction of five million houses for the low income people as part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s flagship programme.

The authority would also responsible to prescribe transparent criteria and procedure for registration, membership, possession, transfer and cancellation of immovable property in a scheme.

Under the proposed law, Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority shall identify immovable properties and projects suitable for the development of schemes. The authority shall recommend to the federal government to provide or procure immovable property or a project through any means permissible under the law.

After the passage of bill, Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Sirajul Haq said the law had an element of usury which should be discouraged. Raja Zafarul Haq also said there should be no legislation having element of usury, adding that this was against the concept of state of Madinah.